Ranking well today is not about having the maximum number of backlinks, but having high-quality links still helps a lot in Google. Getting free links is not as easy as in the past, and many from the old tactics are now obsolete or spam (blog comments, bookmarks, forum profiles, etc.). But you can still earn links with content marketing, and it's my opinion that this method will stick to building safe backlinks for years. You still need a marketing budget to create and distribute content, but that's not changed a lot as old methods (and their damage) costed money too.
Earning links with content is not an easy task. The content needs to be top class, very interesting, and shared a lot before turning eyes and earning links. It is somewhat a similar tactic to ranking a website. For the content to rank, it needs to have qualities that make it stand out from the fold. It works pretty much the same way with a landing page; if your on/off-page SEO is outstanding, it will rank well. Outreach plays a pivotal role in promoting content and can turn the game, but not any outreach method produces excellent results. We want links from established websites in the same niche as the receiver. A handful of such links will have more impact than large quantities of unrelated backlinks.
I get daily requests to link to content that supposedly offers value to my readers (an in-depth article or an infographic), or it adds a resource that the creator thinks my website is currently lacking thereof. Do I link to them? I don't. I prefer to give a backlink or publish well-researched content that offers full coverage of the topic and remains close to the original creator, meaning somebody took from his/her time to create an outstanding informative piece. I am talking here about the outreach that needs to offer an excellent product and reach the right people. In the above examples, they have contacted me (the right guy to publish their content), but their content wasn't good enough for publishing (failed outreach).